Web

Amazon has dumped ‘incentivized’ reviews, but product ratings aren’t changing much

amazon prime packages
Jeramey Lende/123RF
Amazon’s decision to clean out product reviews written by people who got stuff free in exchange for writing those reviews sounds like a good move to help consumers know what real buyers think. Amazon has been busy deleting incentivized review for a couple of months now. It turns out, however, according to a recent study by ReviewMeta, that product rating changes aren’t changing much, if at all, as reported by Tech Crunch.

Incentivized reviews involved vendors either giving away or heavily discounting products in return for a promise to write an “unbiased review.” Incentivized reviews may have created more of a perception problem than actual rating rigging, but earlier ReviewMeta research did show a difference in the reviews that resulted. The study found that incentivized reviews rated products on average 4.74 stars (out of five) compared to 4.36-star average ratings for reviews that were not incentivized.

More: Amazon has finally banned those pesky ‘incentivized’ reviews

Would a 4.74-star rating differ all that much from a 4.36-star review in your decision to buy a product? Maybe or maybe not, but the greater issue was that all those reviews, and some products, especially new ones, often had a high proportion of identified incentivized reviews. And so the appearance in those cases was that the reviews and ratings were essentially bought and paid for and therefore couldn’t be trusted. This in turn gave the overall impression that Amazon’s ratings themselves weren’t maybe all that trustworthy.

So Amazon cracked down. ReviewMeta analyzed roughly 65 million reviews of a bit more than 32,000 product categories. The researchers found that more than 500,000 reviews were deleted in the crackdown, of which 71 percent were incentivized. The average star rating for the deleted reviews was 4.75, higher than average. Just before the ban and mass deletion program began in early October the average daily product review was 4.73 stars, and on November 1, the overall average daily review dropped to 4.65 stars,

You’d think then that the product ratings would have changed and ended up significantly lower because of the dumped ‘seems-like-paid’ reviews and lower review star averages. But that didn’t happen. Why not?

It turns out Amazon wasn’t counting incentivized reviews in calculating overall product ratings, and instead utilized reviews and ratings from “Verified Purchasers” (except with brand new product where there weren’t yet many reviews that were not incentivized). So the overall ratings didn’t change much if at all. Shoppers could pretty much depend on the overall star ratings coming from people who actually paid for the products they reviewed.

But that still didn’t take care of the perception problem. Sweeping out the incentivized reviews now means that shoppers won’t see them at all, and won’t question either the product rating or ratings and reviews overall.

The sweep, which is ongoing, has also had the effect of putting a halt to companies that started incentivized review businesses. According to Tommy Noonan, ReviewMeta CTO, “It’s obviously not 100 percent perfect. It seems [Amazon has] removed a majority of the incentivized reviews and [has] pretty much put an end to more being created. They effectively killed this industry,”

Product Review

Samsung's $99 fitness tracker takes on Fitbit. Can it keep pace?

Samsung’s going toe-to-toe against Fitbit’s Inspire HR with its own $99 fitness tracker -- the Galaxy Fit. It also has a heart rate monitor, can automatically detect six workouts, and has a battery that can last for days.
Movies & TV

Comic-Con 2019 preview: The biggest movie and TV panels you won’t want to miss

Even with more competition than ever, Comic-Con International is still one of the biggest pop culture events of the year. For the latest news about your favorite shows and movies, these are the biggest panels to follow.
Deals

Searching for a projector? Don’t miss these awesome Prime Day 2019 deals

Amazon has discounted several top-rated projectors from the likes of Epson, Optoma, and Sony to celebrate Prime Day 2019, including the must-have 4K Optoma UHD51A.
Deals

The ultimate Prime Day deal? Amazon knocks $700 off the Samsung WH-N950 soundbar

Talk about a cracking Prime Day deal. Amazon has knocked a staggering $700 off the Samsung HW-N950 — a top-rated Dolby Atmos soundbar that comes bundled with two wireless rear speakers and a subwoofer.
News

All of these services let you own your content, so you’ll never lose it

With the closure of Microsoft's ebook store, consumers have begun to wonder exactly how much of their digital media they actually own, and how much is licensed. For the average person, the news isn't great.
Computing

Need to block ads and trackers? Browse our list of the best browsers for privacy

Whether your privacy concerns are focused on controlling cookies or blocking ads and malware, you're sure to find the best browser for your security needs among our picks for the best browsers for privacy.
Mobile

Is the Apple Card any better than a regular credit card? We asked an expert

The new Apple Card is integrated with your iPhone and comes with a titanium backup card for places that don’t accept Apple Pay, but how does it stack up against the competition? We asked some experts to find out.
News

A new phishing scam targets Amazon users just in time for Prime Day

Security researchers at McAfee say that hackers have released a do-it-yourself kit that allows people to easily put together phishing scams targeting Amazon users -- just in time for Prime Day.
Emerging Tech

Stay up to date on Tropical Storm Barry's path with these apps and websites

Looking to track Tropical Storm Barry as it makes landfall and heads into the southeastern U.S.? We've assembled a list of the best hurricane tracking apps and websites to stay ahead of the storm, and out of harm's way.
Movies & TV

Tired of Netflix? Here's where to find free movies online, legally

We've spent countless hours digging around the web to find the best sites for streaming free movies online. Not only are all of these sites completely free to use, they're also completely legal and trustworthy.
Social Media

Twitter’s mobile-inspired dark mode desktop makeover isn’t just about looks

Twitter.com may have a new look, but it's one that already feels familiar. The new design for Twitter's desktop version borrows heavily from the platform's mobile apps, with a sleeker look, a new dark mode, and easier navigation.
Web

Dirty deeds are uncovered dirt cheap with these online background check resources

There are plenty of reasons for carrying out a background check, and not all of them are creepy. Here are several methods to run a background check on someone online, whether you need to vet a potential hire or a new babysitter.
Cars

Carbuying can be tiring: Here are the best used car websites to make it easier

Shopping for a used car isn't easy, especially when the salesman is looking to make a quick sale. Thankfully, there are plenty of sites aimed at the prospective buyer, whether you're looking for a sedan or a newfangled hybrid.
News

Expedia warns travelers of customer service refund scam

Scammers are posing as employees of Expedia to take money from unknowing consumers. Expedia Group and the Better Business Bureau teamed up to warn consumers of these scams that have been reported within the last several days.